Introverts: 4 Survival Tips for Networking Events

Hello My Name is "Introvert" on a name tag.What do you think of when you hear the words, “networking event”?

For introverts, networking often calls to mind standing in a roomful of strangers, trying to balance a drink and a miniature paper plate with 3 grapes, a square of cheese and two crackers on it while pretending to enjoy yourself and secretly wondering how soon you can go home.

For some, it may even call to mind an early experience at the dentist.

Introverts, it doesn’t have to be that way. Honest!

Not an introvert? Forward this to your favorite introvert friend.

(Don’t have any friends who are introverts? You’re missing out. Introverts make the best friends, because they let me — I mean, one … they let one — do all the talking.)

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you can’t go too far wrong with the following tips.

1. Use “feeling” language. That is, refer to emotional experiences when you speak.

For example: “I was intrigued by the premise of Breaking Bad,” “I’m curious to learn more about the candidates (e.g., in an upcoming election).” “It’s exciting that Tina Gilbertson is giving another talk at the library.”

The use of feeling words helps people connect. Everyone knows what it’s like to have emotions, so when you talk about them, you’re speaking a universal language.

If it’s a work setting, you can still use feeling words to connect.

For example, “I’m intrigued by these new developments in the field,” “I’m curious to learn more about your department,” “It’s exciting that a branch is opening in Springfield.”

2. Understand and use small talk.

If you pay attention to conversations between ANY two people who don’t know each other well, you’ll notice that nothing terribly interesting is put forth.

Maybe this is why you hate small talk so much: It can feel like a tragic misuse of time and energy. But something important is happening under the surface…

By offering banal observations anyone could agree with, both people are feeling their way toward each other in a safe, contained interaction.

Here’s a typical exchange between strangers:

“It’s cold out there.”

“Yes. It definitely is.”

“I thought it was supposed to warm up today.”

“Yeah, I heard that too. I guess we’re in for more of the same.”

“At least for today.”



“Hopefully it’ll warm up a bit tomorrow.”

“That would be good.”

“I think we’re all ready for that.”

“You can say that again.”

Small talk is not supposed to perform any function beyond providing a platform for social contact. Notice I didn’t say “meaningful social contact.”

This is why it’s so dull. The content is irrelevant as long as it’s non-controversial, and most topics that aren’t controversial fall somewhere between mind-numbing and just-shoot-me.

But small talk is necessary! How are you supposed to make new friends without it?
You just can’t go up to a stranger and say,

“Hi, I won the school spelling bee in the 5th grade. Have you ever lost a relative to gangrene?”

Instead, to initiate social contact, you start with something socially safer like, “It sure is cold.”

So just go with it. If it takes up too much energy, try putting less into it.

Smile and nod more than you talk. Smiling is king in networking situations. In fact, it’s so important, it should be a tip in itself.

3. Smile.

Whether you’re looking for job opportunities or new friends, a smile is the most hard-working tool in your toolkit.

It covers shyness, lack of confidence, insecurity or fear. Why? Because shy, unconfident, insecure, frightened people DON’T smile.

So if you’re smiling, you look like you’re not any of those things. Get it?

Don’t be afraid of pauses in the conversation. You’re not responsible for filling them. A smile, however, can smooth over much social awkwardness.

4. Let go of the idea that you have to talk to be interesting.

If you’re a good listener, every extrovert in the room (in the general population, that would be the majority) is going to seek you out as a conversation partner.

You can’t both talk at once, and your listening is the perfectly complement to their (or should I say “our”?) excessive prattling.

Introverts like to think before they speak. You might find yourself thinking of a response to something that was said earlier.

It’s perfectly okay for you to say, “You know, I’m having a thought about that thing you mentioned earlier…”

That actually counts as a contribution to the conversation. Yes, it does! Don’t argue with me on this.

Even though it feels to you as if it’s too late, an observation about something discussed earlier can revive a flagging conversation and also help people get to know you.

You’ll be judged (favorably) on your willingness to share what you’re thinking, not on the intellectual merits of what you share.

If you don’t have anyone to talk to in a roomful of people, it’s perfectly acceptable to stand by yourself and smile at everyone who looks at you. Remember: Smiling = confidence.

Your smile will be read as in invitation to speak to you. Someone who’s on his or her own will gravitate toward someone who smiles at them unabashedly.

If you stand in the middle of in a roomful of people with nothing in your hands, you might look like a sleepwalker, or someone who’s doing performance art (“Still Person, Frozen in the Act of Not Socializing”).


While you’re by yourself, it can be handy to have something like a plate or a cup in ONE of your hands. Leave the other one free to shake.

Networking can be fun, even for introverts, especially if you seek out an extrovert to talk — I mean listen — to.

If I see you standing there all by yourself, smiling a greeting at me, I’ll make a beeline for you and introduce myself.

You’ve been warned.

The Surprising Upside to Wallowing in Despair

Sad figure with happy silhouetteWho is there among us who hasn’t felt the chill of despair at one time or another?

With the cold, gray winter enveloping so many of us, I thought this might be a good time to review some emotional survival tips, and underline the happy truth that wallowing in despair can bring rich rewards.

There is such a thing as severe depression. That’s what medication is for, and it can literally be a life-saver.

But for the millions suffering from losses in the past or the present while still going about their business, working through those sad, bad feelings with constructive wallowing can lift the dark veil and bring new life, just in time for spring.

Despair isn’t something we do to ourselves; we don’t choose it. We come by it honestly, through living.

When we let something or someone be important to us, we become vulnerable to loss.

When we allow ourselves to know how much we hurt, we open ourselves to the truth that we’ve been wounded. Sometimes deeply.

We need to heal.

That’s the bottom line.

Despair is a signal that something inside us needs healing.

Click the link below to read this week’s post and, as always, let me know what you think:

3 Good Reasons to Wallow in Despair | Psychology Today

How Organized Are You?

Have a look in your closetAn organizationally talented friend was helping me organize the nightstand beside my bed.

“What’s this?” she asked, pulling a melon-sized object in a soft case from the drawer.

“It’s a blood pressure monitor,” I told her.

“How often do you use it?”

“Maybe once a year,” I guessed. I’d bought it a few years earlier at a steep discount even though I didn’t need one, thinking ‘Hey, great deal on a blood pressure monitor!’

“Why is it in your nightstand?” my friend asked me now.

“Um … because it fits?” I knew this was the wrong answer. But I didn’t have a clue what the right answer was.

Putting frequently used items in easy-to-reach places and rarely used items in storage may be a “Duh!” for someone who is naturally organized, but for the organizationally challenged, it’s more like a “Huh?”

Blame (Or Thank) Your Genes

I’m here to tell you that being an organized person is NOT:

  • Simply by choice
  • Common sense
  • The natural outcome of a conscientious attitude

Being organized is an aptitude. As in, it’s an inherited skill. What’s obvious to someone high in organizational thinking is by no means obvious to someone who’s low on that scale.

Thus, disorganization is NOT the same as:

  1. Sloth
  2. No interest in being organized
  3. Lack of a conscientious attitude
  4. Failure to try

I can personally vouch for #4. I’ve been making efforts to get organized for my entire adult life.

Why? Because I’m a conscientious person, and also a busy one. I want to be organized.

I LOVE The Container Store, and other stores like it (Hold Everything, Storables, etc.). They hold the promise that I, too, can acquire an organizing system that works, once and for all.

Unfortunately for me, I take after my rather ADD-ish, clutter-magnet dad instead of my focused, organizing-wonder mom.

I can take any organizational system and turn it into clutter almost overnight.

Over the years, I’ve made it a point to learn some rules of thumb for organizing.

These rules follow principles that naturally organized people just “get,” intuitively:

Assign everything a home, so you can put it back when you’re done with it.

Put similar things together. This is SO not intuitive for me. It totally depends on what you mean by “similar.”

(Having a similar function does not make things seem alike in my brain, but every organized person I know is a big fan of the grouping-by-function concept — rather than, say, by where something happens to fit, which is my personal go-to)

Place small things in front of larger things in the cupboard, so you can see them.

These insights are hard-won and precious to me. Even still, I cannot get my fridge to look the way it looks when my mom is visiting. When she’s here, it’s tidy and inviting. When she leaves, it quickly starts to resemble the deep discount bin at a flea market — a riot of sizes, shapes and colors with no discernible pattern.

Aptitudes Are Inborn Talents

I claim that organizational thinking is either a specific aptitude or an aptitude cluster. That means it’s high in some people, middling in others and quite low for some of us. It dictates NOT our interest in organizing, but our ability to organize.

Aptitudes are inborn talents that are never gained or lost.

A few examples of established aptitudes are three-dimensional thinking (e.g., parallel parking), number facility (arithmetic skills), word learning (for vocabulary building), pitch discrimination (used in music and learning other languages) and deductive reasoning (as in, “So it must be that the butler did it!”), among many others.

For more about the science of aptitudes, check out the oldest aptitude research outfit in the country, the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation.

Practice Makes … Better

For all of you highly organized folks out there: I envy and admire you. If you can add to the list of “organizing rules of thumb,” I’d like to hear from you in the Comments.

If you’re on the low end of the continuum like me, it’s not your fault. It’s possible to get better at being organized, even if it’s always felt like an uphill battle. Memorize the rules and practice them. You can reach the top of your natural range, whatever that may be, with consistent effort.

For example, after almost 50 years, I finally *might* be getting the hang of putting the cap back on the toothpaste … 99 times out of 100. A personal best!

No matter where you fall on the organizational spectrum, never think of disorganization as a moral weakness.

Now do me a favor and take this quiz so we can all find out where we are on the spectrum.

Thanks for participating! Remember to leave me your best getting-organized tips in the Comments section below.

Visualize Your Goals with a Vision Board

Do you have a vision for what you want your life to look like?

There are two sayings that mirror each other, both of which are true:

“You’ll believe it when you see it,”


“You’ll see it when you believe it.”

In other words, it’s easier to realize a goal that you truly believe in, and THAT’S easier when you can picture it in your mind’s eye.

But what if you’re mind’s eye needs prescription glasses? You might need a little help to see your way to your goals.

This week’s post will give you some great ideas about how to do that.

It’s an excerpt from Paula Rizzo’s new book, Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed.

Full disclosure: Paula and I share a publisher, which is how I came to learn about her book.

Take it away, Paula…

 Visualize Your Goals

I’m not arts-and-crafty, but at the beginning of every year, I make a vision board. It’s my one craft project for the year, and it’s so much fun.

Reading magazines is my guilty pleasure, and it comes in handy for this task. I rip out pages of pictures and words that speak to me, and then I glue my favorites onto a poster board.

What is a Vision Board?

A vision board is a place for all the things you’d like to accomplish, places you’d like to go, and things you enjoy. If you use this tool as a jumping off point for your goals, you are more likely to achieve them.

I use it as a reminder of my goals, like having a three-bedroom apartment or going to Venice. I also put photos of people I admire, things I enjoy such as drinking tea, and other ambitions, including writing this book.

It’s imperative to be able to visualize your goals, even if only on paper. This all goes back to the credo, “You become what you believe.”

There Are No Rules

Your vision board can include photos, drawings, or inspirational words. If you are super crafty, you can use fabric and other textures as well. There is no right way to do it.

The photos can be places you’ve been, places you want to go, outfits you like, things you’d like to buy, kitchens you want to model yours after, or anything else that makes you smile.

You can be literal or creative with your choices. I’ve included photos of champagne because it’s one of my favorite drinks, but also, it symbolizes celebrations. I’d like to have a lot of things to celebrate.

Along that line, my vision board includes a photo of someone filling out thank-you cards, not because I particularly like writing thank-you cards but because I’d like to have lots of reasons to say thank you.

I purposely leave some white space on my vision board so that it can evolve throughout the year. Whenever I see a photo that catches my eye or I think of something I want to achieve, I add it.

My vision board hangs inside my closet door. This way I’m sure to see it every morning when I get dressed.

You can make your board by hand, the way I do, or you can make one digitally on your computer.

Here are some places where you can keep your vision board:

  1. On your desk in a frame
  2. Pinned up on a cork board
  3. As your desktop wallpaper
  4. In a book that you carry with you
  5. On your phone in an app, such as  Vision Board Deluxe by Happy Tapper
  6. On
  7. On

I think this would be a fun activity to do with friends or even with kids. Kids can make their own vision boards with activities and places they want to go throughout the year. You’ll be surprised how much of an influence these vision boards can have on them.

You can even make it a tradition to check out last year’s vision board on New Year’s Eve to see how much they’ve done in the past year. Then make a new board on New Year’s Day.

But you don’t have to do this at the beginning of the year; you can make a vision board at any time!

Remember, though, that just having a vision board isn’t enough. We must actively work toward our goals.

Listful Thinking book cover imagePaula Rizzo is an Emmy award winning television news producer in New York City.  She’s also the founder of the productivity site and author of Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed.

Where the Nice Guys Are

bookstore guyYears before I was a serious-minded mental health professional, I was writing articles of a different sort.

Today I thought I’d share with you an early offering from my young-free-and-single self who was fully immersed in the New York City dating scene circa 1999.

This is one of the first articles I posted on my then-newly-minted personal website, (It’s changed a tad since then, as you can see.)

Guys, this was written for women, but please read it and let me know what you think of this advice.

Given the setting, it’s not exactly hopelessly out of date, but going in that direction:

How to Pick Up a Guy in a Bookstore

1. Spot cutie.

2. Scope for female companion. Sometimes she saves a table in the café while he scouts for books, so beware.

3. Make your move by saying something to him. Here’s a tip: Look at the section he’s in. See what’s in his hands, if anything, and put the two together.

For example, if he’s standing there with a sorry-looking umbrella in the Do It Yourself section, you can say, “Are you looking for a book on how to fix your umbrella?”

4. Note his reaction to this charming display of your humor. If he responds with a smile but doesn’t have a comeback, he may be shy OR he’s not single/interested.

The difference is this: a shy guy will look like he’s struggling to think of a way to keep the conversation going, even if he’s not successful right away.

A guy who’s not interested will look back at the bookshelves and keep his eyes off you. He won’t struggle at all. You’ll sense it and move on.

In that case, just begin at 1 with someone else and repeat until you get to step 5.

5. He’s interested! You’re 95% of the way to a date. Remember to smile throughout the encounter. Smiling is a signal that you’re approachable and you won’t call security if he expresses interest. It also makes you look happy and confident, which are turn-ons for guys who are boyfriend material.

6.  The Closing. After a little conversation it’s time for the closing. “Well, it was really nice talking to you,” you say, smiling still. Hesitate; let him know it’s hard for you to tear yourself away from him. If he doesn’t come out with a “Maybe we could…” then help him out by saying, “I hope I see you again.” Check his response.

At this point, he’ll probably attempt to ask you out. If not, give him one more chance, as he could be very interested but bad at this kind of thing or not sure of your response.

Your final bid: “Do you come here every Friday night, or …?” If he doesn’t bite, he’s not going to. Time to move on with a face-saving “Well, it was nice meeting you, take care.”

Usually, by your first “It was really nice talking to you,” IF you look into his eyes and smile enthusiastically at him as you say it, he will be tripping over himself to ask you out/get your phone number.

Try to get his number, too. Guys often second-guess themselves and think, “She probably doesn’t really want to go out,” or else they’re so nervous that they tell themselves this just so they don’t have to go through the anxiety of calling.

Be SUPER approachable. If you’re busy, make a counter-invitation for another day. Asking people out is very difficult because you have to put yourself out there and face rejection in order to do it. Men deserve big props for doing this all the time.

Of course, you could bypass all the smiling and encouragement and just get straight to asking him out yourself – why pussy-foot around? Believe me, I’m a big fan of women taking the bull by the horns.

But not all men — even cool ones — are ready for this up front and might actually get scared off. They don’t know you well enough to know you aren’t a man-eater.

Later, when you know each other better, break out the non-traditional behavior by letting him do your dishes and the laundry.

Good luck!

Calling All Negative Nellies and Debbie Downers

Debbie DownerThere’s a lot of talk out there about “negative people.” You’re supposed to avoid them.

Cut them out of your life.

“Just Say No” to their negativity.

But what if it’s you?

What if you’re the Eeyore bringing everyone down?

Are you a negative person, or are you simply being realistic?

I wrote a post on this topic this week over on Psychology Today, my home away from home.

Check it out and let me know what you think:

Are You a Debbie Downer?

5 Ways to Feel (and Heal) Your Feelings

You've got to feel 'em to heal 'emYou’ve heard me say many times that the reason to let yourself feel bad is so that you can feel better sooner.

So how exactly do you do that?

It’s one thing to say, “Feel your feelings,” but what exactly does that look like?

In essence, it means honoring your real feelings, and yourself, when you’re hurting.

Erin Leyba’s wonderful article offers some really practical tips for doing just that.


5 Ways to Honor Negative Feelings Instead of Distracting Away From Them

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